Developing Sustainable Leadership Practices to Improve Employee Engagement through ODI: A Case Study of Thai Family-Owned Business


  • Jarupa Sunthonpagasit Assumption University
  • Bruce Hanson


appreciative coaching, employee engagement, organization development, family-owned business, organization development intervention, sustainable leadership practices


This paper is a case study of a family owned Thai business, Sitti Yont Group Co., Ltd. As is common in many family owned businesses and particularly in Asian businesses, the father who is also the  CEO/owner makes most of the decisions and the various family members have particular influence on the father.  The non-family workers often do not feel empowered to make decisions and often appear to be unengaged in their work.  That is the case in this company. Also, with traditional working style from old generation, the human resource management seemed to be dated and unsystematic. But it is not only the company growing beyond the human resources of the family, but it is also the need for greater expertise, which requires the greater engagement of its employees.  The organizational development question is how can we increase the workers’ engagement? Sustainable Leadership practices were considered to increase employee engagement and were considered a good way to develop this Thai business. An organizational development intervention was planned and carried out to increase the use of several sustainable leadership practices and thereby increase employee engagement.  Appreciative coaching was the primary method of the intervention encouraging the development of the 5 leadership practices.  And it appears to have worked. Employee engagement has improved as measured in the difference in pre and post survey and interview responses. This research intends to apply the sustainable leadership strategy in developing employee engagement with the purpose of generating organization sustainability. The practical impact of this intervention is to smooth the change process in the chosen family business, as well as to create the organization sustainability, together with an improvement in the employee engagement. The contribution to organization development theory and practice is that OD practitioners could benefit from a result of the action research connected between leadership practices, culture awareness and employee engagement for Thai family business. Also, they can see numerous difficulties that the chosen company in this research confronted and how to solve each problem by applying organizational development interventions. Lastly, the contribution of this study to the sustainable leadership practices is assess whether they can be usefully applied in the case of the family business in Thailand that is currently facing with numerous difficulties at present, mainly on human resource management by enhancing employee engagement. Other small and medium family businesses in Thailand could benefit by using the case of Sitti Yont Group Company Limited as a case study for their further ODI applied.

Author Biography

Jarupa Sunthonpagasit, Assumption University



References Amburgey, T. L. & Dacin, T. (1993). As the left foot follows the right? The dynamics of strategic & structural change. Acad. Management Journal, 37, 1427-1452.

Anitha, J. (2013). Determinants of employee engagement & their impact on employee performance. International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management, 63 (3), 308-323.

Avery, G. C. (2005). Leadership for Sustainable Futures: Achieving Success in a Competitive World. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Avery, G.C. & Bergsteiner, H. (2011). Sustainable leadership practices for enhancing business resilience and performance. Strategy and Leadership, 39 (3), 5-15.

Avery, G. C. & Bergsteiner, H. (2010). Honeybees and Locusts. Allen & Unwin.

Avery, G.C. & Bergsteiner, H. (2011). Sustainable Leadership: Honeybee & Locust Approaches. In W. Hutton, The World Were in. London: Little, Brown.

Bamberger, P. & Meshoulam, I. (2000). Human Resource Management Strategy. CA: Sage.

Bangkok Post (2013). As you decide, So shall you innovate (Part 2). Retrieved from

Bass, B.M. (1990). Bass and Stogdills Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, and Managerial Applications. New York: The Free Press.

Bass, S.P. (2012). Organization in Family Businesses. Family Business Workshop, Family Owned Business Seminar on Oct 28th/29th in LA & OC.

Baumruk, R., Gorman, B. Jr, Gorman, R.E. & Ingham, J. (2004). Why managers are crucial to increasing engagement. Strategic HR Review, 5 (2), 24-27.

Becker B.E., Huselid M.A., Pickus P.S. & Spratt M.F. (1997). HR as a source of shareholder value: Research & recommendations. Human Resource Management, 36, 39-47.

Bower, J.L. (2000). The Purpose of Change. In M. Beer & N. Nohrina.

Breaking the Code of Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Boyatzis, R.E., Smith, M.L., & Blaize, N. (2006). Developing Sustainable Leaders Through Coaching and Compassion. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 5 (1), 8–24.

Brain Technologies Company (2012). The BrainMap.

Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3 (2), 77-101.

Brydon-Miller, M., Greenwood, D., & Maguire, P. (2003). Why action research?. Action Research, 1 (1), 9-28.

Buckingham, M. & Coffman, C. (1999). First, Break All the Rules: What the Worlds Greatest Managers Do Differently. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Burke, W. W. (1994). Organization development. Reading: Addison-Wesley.

Bushe, G. R. (2001). Five theories of change embedded in appreciative inquiry. In D. Cooperrider, P. Sorenson, D. W., & Yeager, T. (Eds.).

Appreciative inquiry: An emerging direction for organization development. Champaign, IL: Stipes.

Bushe, G.R. & Kassam, A.F. (2005). When Is Appreciative Inquiry Transformational? : A Meta-Case Analysis. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41, 161-181.

Caleb, D. (2014). INTERNAL SUCCESSION PLANNING: The Research & Practice of Growing & Developing Retail Pharmacy Talent from Inside the Corporation. Career Planning & Adult Development Journal, 31 (3), 46.

CEO World Magazine (2014). Succession Planning: Organizations Still Have Some Work to Do. Retrieved from

Chow, W.S. & Chen, Y. (2012). Corporate Sustainable Development: Testing a New Scale Based on the Mainland Chinese Context. J Bus Ethics 105, 519–533.

Clark, T. (2014). The Biggest Myth About Family Businesses. Retrieved from

Coghlan, D. (2011). Action Research: Exploring Perspectives on a Philosophy of Practical Knowing. The Academy of Management Annals, 5 (1), 53–87.

Cohen, L. & Manion, L. (1989). Research Method in Education (3rd ed.). London: Routledge.

Cohen, D. & Crabtree, B. (2006). Qualitative Research Guidelines Project. Retrieved from

Cooperrider, D. & Whitney, D. (2005). Appreciative inquiry: A positive revolution in change. San Francisco: CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Cooperrrider, D. & Srivastra, S. (2000). Appreciative Inquiry in organizational life: Rethinking Human Oraganizations toward a Positive Chang Theory. Retrieved from http://appreciative inquiry. Case. edu/intro/classicsDetail.cfm?coid=741

Cooperrider, D. & Whitney, D. (2003). A positive revolution in change: Appreciative inquiry. Retrieved from

Cummings, T.G. & Worley, C.G. (2009). Organization Development & Change (9th ed.). USA: South Western.

Custom Insight (2014). Employee Engagement Survey - Sample Survey Questions. Retrieved from

Daft, R.L. (2013). Organization Theory & Design. 11th Edn. USA: Cengage Learning.

Development Dimensions International (2005). Predicting Employee Engagement. Retrieved from

Davis, J. (2001). Governing the Family-Run Business. Retrieved from

Davis, J.A. (2001). Governing the Family-Run Business. Harvard Business School.

Davis, J.A. (2014). Managing the Family Business: Leadership Roles. Harvard Business School.

Dernovsek , D. (2008). Creating highly engaged & committed employee starts at the top & ends at the bottom line. Credit Union National Association, Inc.

Dokkularb, P., Lord, B.R., & Dixon, R. (2013). Management control practices in Thai culture. Seventh Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference in Kobe, Japan.

Donovan, C. (2005). Succession planning for success: developing support for chief officer promotions utilizing internal pools of candidates. CA: Monterey Park.

Dufour, Y. & Steane, P. (2007). Implementing knowledge management: a more robust model. JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT, 11 (6), 68-80.

Ernst & Young (2013). Role of HR in driving sustainable business practices. Value of sustainability reporting.

Erven, B.L. (2010). Organizational Structure of the Family Business. Retrieved from

Ferdig, M.A. (2007). Sustainability Leadership: Co-creating a Sustainable Future. Journal of Change Management, 7 (1), 25–35.

Fien, J. (2014). Chasing the honey bee: Enhancing leadership for sustainability. Swinburne University of Technology.

Franklin, J. L. (1976). Characteristics of successful & unsuccessful organization development. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 12, 471-492.

French, W. & Bell, C. (1999). Organization development (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Galbraith, J.R. (1973). Designing complex organizations. Addison Wesley Publishing Company.

Galbraith, J.R. (2008). Designing Matrix Organizations That Actually Work. CA: Jossey-Bass.

Galbraith Management Consultants (2016). THE STAR MODEL. Retrieved from

Gallup (2002). Employee Engagement: A Leading Indicator of Financial Performance. Retrieved from

Geocities (20112). McKinsey 7 s Framework. Retrieved from

Gibbons, J. (2006). Employee Engagement: A Review of Current Research and Its Implications., New York: The Conference Board.

Gordon, S. (2008). Appreciative Inquiry Coaching. International Coaching Psychology Review, 3 (1), 17-29.

Greenwood, D. (2007). Action research: Unfulfilled promises & unmet challenges. Concepts and Transformation, 7(2), 117–139.

Hargreaves, A., & Fink, D. (2004). The seven principles of sustainable leadership. Educational Leadership, 61 (7), 8-13.

Have, S. ten (2002). Voorbeeldig ver&eren: een kwestie van organiseren,proefschrift. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Nieuwezijds.

Have, S.T., Have, W.T., Stevens, F., Elst, M. V.D., & Pol-Coyne, F. (2003). Key Engagement Model. London: Prentice Hall.

Hill, P. (1971). Towards a New Philosophy of Management. New York: Barnes & Noble.

Hofstede, G.J., Pedersen, P.B. & Hofstede, G. (2002). Exploring Culture: Exercises, Stories and Synthetic Cultures. USA: Intercultural Press

Holmes, H., Tangtongtavy, S. & Tomizawa, R. (1996). Working with the Thais: A Guide to Managing in Thailand. Bangkok: White Lotus.

International Finance Corporation (2007). Stakeholder Engagement: A Good Practice Handbook for Companies Doing Business in Emerging Markets. World Bang Group.

J, A. (2013). Determinants of employee engagement and their impact on employee performance. International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management, 63 (3), 308-323.

Johnson, P. (2011). The Financial Stability Of Sustainable Organisations. Journal of Business & Economics Research, 9 (10), 65-74.

Kahn, W.A. (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of Management Journal, 33 (4), 692-724.

Kantabutra, S. (2009). Toward a behavioural theory of vision in organisational settings. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 30 (4), 319-337.

Kantabutra, S. & Saratun, M. (2012). Sustainable leadership: honeybee practices at Thailand’s oldest university. International Journal of Educational Management, 27 (4), 356-376.

Kantabutra , S. & Avery, G.C. (2011). Sustainable Leadership: Honeybee Practices at Thailand’s Siam Cement Group. Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration.

Kantabutra, S. & Vimolratana, P. (2009). Vision-based Leadership: Relationships and Consequences in Thai and Australian Retail Stores. Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration.

Kasikorn Bank (2012). Real Estate Industry: Industry Rating Report. Thailand: Kasikorn Bank.

Kates, A. & Galbraith, J. (2007). Designing your organization: using the star model to solve 5 critical design challenges. USA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Katz, D. & Kahn, R.L. (1966). The Social Psychology of Organizations. New York: Wiley.

Kimberly, J.R. & Nielsen, W.R. (1975). Organization Development & Change in Organizational Performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, 20 (2), 191-206.

Komin, S. (1990). Psychology of the Thai People: Values & Behavioral Patterns. National institute of Development Administration (NIDA), Bangkok.

Kouzes, J.M. & Posner, B.Z. (2007). The Leadership Challenge. (4th ed.). USA: Jossey-Bass

Lake, H. (2006). Learning to Compete: The Performance Effect of Human Resource Management and Work Organization in the South Indian Garment Industry. USA: ProQuest Information and Learning Company.

Latin American Companies Circle (2009). Practical Guide to Corporate Governance: Experiences from the Latin American Companies Circle. Retrieved from

Lawler, E.E. III. (2000). Rewarding excellence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Locke, E. A. & Latham, G.P. (1990). A theory of goal setting & task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Lockwood, N.R. (2007). Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage: HRs Strategic Role, 2007 SHRM® Research Quarterly.

Ludema, J.D., Whitney, D., Mohr, B.J. & Griffin, T.J. (2000). The Appreciative Inquiry summit: A practitioners guide for leading large-group change. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Lurey, J.S. & Griffin, M. (2002). ACTION RESEARCH THE ANCHOR OF OD PRACTICE. OD Practitioner, 34 (3).

Luthans, F. & Peterson, S.J. (2002). Employee engagement & manager self-efficacy. Journal of Management Development, 21 (5), 376-387.

Lynch, D. (2003). The mother of all minds. USA: Brain Technologies Press.

Marshall, M.N. (1996). Sampling for qualitative research. Great Britain: Oxford University Press.

Mendonca, M. & Kanungo, R.N. (1996). Impact of culture on performance management in developing countries, International Journal of Manpower, 17 (4/5), 65–75.

Miller, D., Steier, L., & Le BretonMiller, I. (2003). Lost in time: Intergenerational succession, change, & failure in family business. Journal of Business Venturing, 18 (4), 513-531.

Miller, S.P. (2014). Next-generation leadership development in family businesses: the critical roles of shared vision & family climate. Retrieved from

Mind Tools Ltd (2012). The McKinsey 7-S Framework Ensuring That All Parts of Your Organization Work in Harmony. Retrieved from

Morgan, G. (1986). Images of Organization. CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Mulili, B.M. & Wong, P. (2011). Continuous organizational development (COD). INDUSTRIAL & COMMERCIAL TRAINING, 43 (6), 377-384.

Parrish, P. & Linder-VanBerschot, J.A. (2010). Cultural Dimensions of Learning: Addressing the Challenges of Multicultural Instruction. Retrieved from

Pimpa, N. (2012). Amazing Thailand: Organizational Culture in the Thai Public Sector. Retrieved from

Pornpitakpan, C. (2000). Trade in Thailand: a three-way culture comparison, Business Horizons, March-April, 61-70.

Pruetipibultham, O. (2009). The sufficiency economy philosophy & strategic HRD: a sustainable development for Thailand. USA: University of Minnesota.

PWC (2014). Family Business Survey. Retrieved from

Rapaport, R. (1970). Three dilemmas in action research. Human Relations, 23 (60), 499–513.

Rattanaphan, P. (2017). Patient 4.0. Retrieved from Rattanaphan, P. (2017). SOAR Analysis from the famous movie “LA LA L&”. Retrieved from

Robinson, D., Perryman, S. & Hayday, S. (2004). The Drivers of Employee Engagement. Institute for Employment Studies, Brighton.

Rodsutti, M.C. & Makayathorn, P. (2005). Organizational diagnostic factors in family Business: Case studies in Thailand, DEVELOPMENT & LEARNING IN ORGANIZATIONS, 19 (2), 16-18.

Schneider, B., Macey, H., Barbera, M. & Martin, N. (2009). Driving customer satisfaction and financial success through employee engagement. People & Strategy, 32 (2), 22-27.

Schwerzler, D. (2011). Rules of conduct for family businesses. Retrieved from

Schwerzler, D. (2014). Family Business Consulting Pioneer. Retrieved from

Shani, A. B. & Pasmore, W.A. (1985). Organizational inquiry: Towards a new model of the action research process. Contemporary Organization Development. Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman.

Shier, R. (2004). Statistics: 2.3 The Mann-Whitney U Test. Retrieved from

Sittiyont Group Co., Ltd. (2012). About us. Retrieved from

Statstutor (2017). Spearmans correlation Retrieved from

Silbert, J.H. & Silbert, T. (2007). SOARing from SWOT: Four Lessons Every Strategic Plan Must Know. AI Practitioner: International Journal of AI Best Practic, 1-4.

Sloan, B. & Canine, T. (2007). Appreciative Inquiry in coaching: Exploration and learnings. AI Practitioner: The International Journal of AI best practice, 1-5.

Soponkij, U. (2015). The ODI Impact of Leadership Styles, Shared Values & Skills on Employee Satisfaction Elements & Employee Engagement: A Case Study of a Mid-Size Company in Thailand. AU-GSB e-Journal, 3 (1), 27-44.

Stavros, J.M. & Hinrichs, G. (2009). The Thin Book of SOAR; Building Strengths-Based Strategy. OR: Thin Book Publishing CO.

Schwerzler, D. (2014). Family Business Consulting Pioneer. Retrieved from

Shier, R. (2004). Statistics: 2.3 The Mann-Whitney U Test. Retrieved from

Statstutor (2017). Spearmans correlation Retrieved from


Suehiro, A. & Wailerdsak, N. (2004). Family Business in Thailand Its Management, Governance, & Future Challenges. ASEAN Economic Bulletin, 21 (I), pp 81-93.

Suriyankietkaew, S. (2013). Emergent Leadership Paradigms For Corporate Sustainability: A Proposed Model. The Journal of Applied Business Research, 29 (1), 173-182.

Syed, N. & Yan, L.X. (2012). Employee Job Satisfaction: Empirical Analysis. INTERDISCIPLINARY JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY RESEARCH IN BUSINESS, 4 (2), 318-342.

Tayko, P.R.M. & Reyes-Talmo, M.L. (2010). Whole Brain Literacy. Philippines: Dolmar Press, Inc.

Thai Intercontinental Group Co., Ltd. (2012). About us. from Retrieved from

Thailand Board of Investment. Real Estate Industry. Retrieved from

Thomas, L., Macmillan, J., McColl, E., Hole, C., & Bond, S.(1995).

Comparison of focus groups & individual interview methodology in examining patient satisfaction with nursing care. International Journal of Research & Practice, 1(14), 206–220.

Trist, E.L., Higgin, G.W., Murray, H. & Pollock, A.B. (1963). Organizational Choice. London: Tavistock.

United Nations (2005). 2005 World Summit Outcome. Retrieved from resolution 24oct2005 en.pdf

Wallace, L. & Trinka, J. (2009). Leadership and employee engagement. Public Management, 91 (5), 10-13.

Walumbwa, F.O., Avolio, B.J., Gardner, W.L., Wernsing, T.S. & Peterson, S.J. (2008). Authentic leadership: development and validation of a theory-based measure. Journal of Management, 34 (1), 89-126.

Watkins, J.M. & Mohr, B.J. (2001). Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the speed of imagination. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Wengraf, T. (2001). Qualitative Research Interviewing. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Wireless business Intelligence Co., Ltd. (2017). About us. Retrieved from

Woodman, R.W. & Wayne, S.J. (1985). An Investigation of Positive-Findings Bias in Evaluation of Organization Development Interventions. The Academy of Management Journal, 28 (4), 889-913.

Worley, C.G., Hitchin, D.E. & Ross, W.L. (1996). Integrated Strategic Change. How OD Builds Competitive Advantage. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.




How to Cite

Sunthonpagasit, J., & Hanson, B. (2019). Developing Sustainable Leadership Practices to Improve Employee Engagement through ODI: A Case Study of Thai Family-Owned Business. ABAC ODI JOURNAL Vision. Action. Outcome, 6(1), 40-61. Retrieved from